I spent the last two days at a workshop, learning from Gordon Neufeld. He is a developmental psychologist who works with the attachment and maturation process in children and adolescents.
At the end, he summed up what children need in order to survive adversity and have the capacity to mature: Children need to have a "strong emotional connection" to a safe adult. Children need to love.
He didn't say children need to be loved, but rather that the child needs to experience the attachment to, the sense of belonging with, loving, an adult. Of course, that happens best when a child is first loved, but even the child who is not loved can survive by loving.
'Just as I have loved you, you should love one another.'
What a beautiful design we are! Even when we are failed by those we were entrusted to as infants, or when the tragedy of life deprives us of the comfort and warmth of home and love, we can recover and be restored by loving.
That our loving another would be so transformative should come as no surprise, given the emphasis Jesus placed on the importance of love. The first great commandment is to love God with our whole being. God is described as being love, as having love as his essence, his nature. Love is the greatest of the things that endure into the next life.
I see tremendous beauty in the ways that nature, the natural world, illustrates and confirms the truths that God has revealed through the person of Jesus and through Scripture. It is so beautiful because it gives insight into God's action and intentions for us; gives evidence of his ways written directly into our planet and our DNA. We are made for love. It is in our nature and it is revealed by God.
This Sunday's Gospel from John revisits the Last Supper to recount Jesus's words to the disciples, some last words of instruction before his crucifixion and death.
It seems obvious that he would be speaking the most important things in that moment; that anything remembered from that night would be truth to cling to. John records his words: "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another."
We need to love one another. We were designed to need to love, to be sustained by loving, to be healed by loving. Life works best when we love.
Loving gives us courage, gives us meaning and purpose. Loving gives hope, moves us away from preoccupation with self to connection with others. From the time we are young and can first "love," we are fed and sustained by that love.
As we grow and mature, it is loving that makes us truly human. As adults, whether in marriage, ministry or as parents, we get another chance to mature, to grow up in loving another.
Developmental psychology now echoes the words of Scripture: love is essential. It is essential for life, for growth, for meaning. It is the context of human existence. We were made for this.
(Kathleen Giffin firstname.lastname@example.org)